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£4m pilot plant set for Immingham as coal-replacement fuel trials heat up

A £4 million investment aimed at commercialising technology to produce solid fuels in hours – as opposed to naturally over millennia – is coming to Immingham.

£4m pilot plant set for Immingham as coal-replacement fuel trials heat up

The pilot hydrothermal carbonisation unit is to be installed at CPL Industries’ production site on the docks, in what is a UK first. And should it prove successful, as volumes go from lab-scale grams to tonnes, it could lead to job creation and further investment on site. 

The new facility, off Port of Immingham’s Southern Way, is being constructed in partnership with the University of Nottingham and the Energy Research Accelerator, an initiative funded by Innovate UK and working with universities and industry to support research and development in energy.

Hydothermal carbonisation uses moderate temperatures and high pressures, effectively mimicking the long-term natural process of coal formation, turning waste streams such as green / organic waste into value-added fuel products that could be used in both domestic and industrial applications.

Jason Sutton, director of CPL, pictured, said: “The technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of high-moisture organic waste streams, producing value-added products that displace fossil fuels and promoting the circular economy.  "CPL and the rest of the project partners stand ready to engage with local authorities and waste managers to source suitable waste material, conduct trials and develop the wider commercial and environmental benefits.”

Production is scheduled to begin next summer, building on technology from Spanish partner Ingelia, as it seeks to investigate suitable replacements for fossil fuels in its home heating products.

It could also see future developments enable it to replace coking coals in industrial applications such as foundries and smelters. 

Waste material handlers are now being sought to partner up with CPL and the academics to supply materials to the plant, and to collaborate on future commercial projects. 

Professor Colin Snape, director of the Centre in Efficient Power from Fossil Energy and Carbon Capture Technologies at University of Nottingham, said: “Developing this new HTC facility is very exciting as this is the first such plant in the UK. We will be able to look at how we can convert waste streams into value-added fuel products that have many domestic and industrial applications. Also, by using the biocoal that has been made from biowaste, we are producing a carbon-neutral fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

CPL Industries was originally part of British Coal, and is now a leading manufacturer and supplier of smokeless fuels and other carbon-based products. Last year it manufactured more than 300,000 tonnes, split between Immingham, where around 80 people are employed, and a plant in Foynes, Ireland. 

As part of an ongoing programme for the development of next-generation fuels based on biomass materials and novel production processes, it has already brought several products to the market containing biomass material.

Gordon Waddington, chief executive of the Energy Research Accelerator, added: “This facility is a great example of what we are aiming to do – demonstrating cutting-edge innovation, with industrial partners who can advise on the commercial application of the products.

"By tapping into the experience of CPL and the expertise of Prof Snape and his team, I am confident that we will be able to demonstrate that producing biocoal using this technique, has significant commercial potential.”

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